This scenario is a fictional British fleet exercise in 1909, designed to examine the idea that dreadnoughts “… were equal to any two and a half battleships at present existing.” [Reference 1]
The Red force, dubbed the ‘Royalist Fleet’, consists of all the currently operational dreadnought battleships and dreadnought armoured cruisers (later renamed battlecruisers) . It sails south from Rosyth to confront the Blue force, dubbed the ‘Parliamentary Fleet’, consisting of twice the number of pre-dreadnought battleships and armoured cruisers. The Red force includes the newest destroyers and the Blue force has a larger number of older destroyers. Both forces have scout cruisers of the latest operational classes.
The guns of the Invincible are penalized for the problems associated with the electrical turret mechanisms. These problems were never resolved, and the equipment was replaced with standard hydraulic gear in 1914. [Reference 2]
The code AI ran the blue side’s forces.
The sea conditions and orders of battle are listed on Page 1 of the Narrative file:
Plots and commentary:
The Red force cruising formation has the Invincible class ahead of the dreadnoughts, the destroyer flotilla stationed on the port bow of the flagship Dreadnought, and the scout cruisers in a line abreast screen ahead. The Blue force cruising formation has two battleship divisions in line ahead, two armoured cruiser divisions stationed ahead to port and starboard, two destroyer flotillas stationed abeam either side of the flagship Lord Nelson, and the scout cruisers in a line abreast screen ahead.
After the initial sightings, both sides deploy to port. The Red force attempts to use its speed advantage to gain a downwind position.
Once the battle lines open fire, the Blue force reverses direction to engage on parallel courses. Blue divisions adopt quarter line formations to allow following ships to be clear of the smoke from those ahead. This can be seen on the plot as parallel blue line segments. The Red heavy ships initially concentrate on the leading Blue battleships, but as the range closes and the Blue armoured cruisers’ fire becomes more effective, the Indomitable’s division shifts fire to the Warrior’s division. The leading Blue ships take significant damage, but the trailing Blue ships are firing undisturbed.
The faster Red force pulls ahead and edges to starboard to cross Blue’s line of advance. The Blue battle line turns away to keep gun arcs open. The scout cruisers fight their own battle between the lines, but the Blue scouts take damage from Red battleship secondary guns.
The Red force, having expended most of its armour piercing shells, and under threat from a visible Blue torpedo launch, turns away and makes smoke to break off the engagement.
End of game status:
The Red force of dreadnought type ships inflicted greater damage than it received, but left almost half of the Blue heavy ships undamaged. For the number of 12 inch shell hits, relatively little critical damage was inflicted. This was due to the defects of the shells, most of which exploded prematurely from the sensitivity of the lyddite filler, or shattered on face-hardened armour when striking at an angle from the perpendicular. It is possible that umpires of an actual fleet exercise would have judged many of the damaged ships to be sunk.
The short range of the torpedoes (3,000 yards maximum) made the destroyers ineffective in this scenario.
1. Fisher, Sir John, “Naval Necessities,” The Fisher Papers, Vol. II, page 149.
2. Roberts, John, “British Battlecruisers 1905-1920,” pages 84-85.